Timorous Beasties on their new collection and Edinburgh showroom

We meet Glasgow-based design duo Timorous Beasties at their elegant brick mill headquarters for a preview of the pared-back Stucco collection, and to find out more about their new 2,500 sq ft showroom in Scotland’s capital, opening this month

Article by Stacey Hunter | 10 Jun 2024
  • Timorous Beasties Cornice Crown Wallpaper

Timorous Beasties, the internationally-acclaimed design studio, are launching a showroom in Edinburgh’s New Town. The brand is renowned for its maximalist designs which have appeared in such varied locations as the East Village apartment walls of actor Amy Sedaris, on a souvenir Kate Bush concert programme and on the front of a £50 note. At their light-filled, three-storey production base in Glasgow, master craftspeople painstakingly print wallpaper at ten-metre-long tables in an environment that feels conducive to this new collection – meticulous and calm. The Stucco collection utilises an unusually pared-back colour palette, featuring natural and woven fabrics. New designs like Ripolin combine blurred images based on ink blotches with hand-drawn elements. Its unique layered design is an example of Timorous Beasties’ pioneering use of digital printing technologies mixed with hand printing techniques – it is also fully compostable.

In the atelier at the top of the building, the wrap-around windows lend natural daylight to walls filled with collages, paper experiments and sketches. A variety of mise-en-scènes position furniture and plants alongside the latest iterations of the new designs, contextualising them for both domestic and commercial use. A team of designers and producers move from desk to desk reviewing and planning the studio’s busy international schedule. But overall, there is a sense of purpose and calm focus. Gesturing to a moodboard of images featuring mainly white and ivory, co-founder of Timorous Beasties, Paul Simmons explained the genesis of Stucco.

“In a world that seems divided and vulnerable, we wanted to produce a collection that felt peaceful and quiet. We felt there was so much oversaturation of colour, and pattern on pattern, that we wanted calmer waters for a while. We feel that this collection appeals to our customers who live with white walls, and want something special but not overpowering.”

The starting point was a tongue-in-cheek take on Le Corbusier’s Law of Ripolin, the 60s modernist architect’s declaration that whitewashed walls had a ‘spiritual and moral cleansing power.’

“We imagined a new beginning, where all around us, pattern on pattern clutters our minds, and this oversaturation becomes overwhelming. We envisioned moving into a new house and painting and decorating everything in white, but this time, to Le Corbusier’s horror, we would use ornate plasterwork and damasks as a reference and paint and print over everything with thick opaque ink. Wallpapers become covered, only leaving parts of patterns seen, the paint begins to crack and split, paint daubs, dribbles, and splats cover brightly coloured designs, so that only sections manage to peek through.”

Fellow co-founder Alistair McAuley describes the ethos that has driven Timorous Beasties since its inception in 1990. “We’ve always sought to do and make things our own, and to try and push ourselves and the boundaries of what we do. At the very heart of our studio is an enduring passion and reverence for print and textiles guided by a drive for experimentation and long-held desire for creating the very finest quality products.”

A photo of Timorous Beasties wallpaper. A table sits in front, with a stone lion and lamp on top.
Ripolin Panel Hand Printed Wallpaper. Image: Adrian Barry.

Timorous Beasties have collaborated with a diverse roster of international brands such as Fortnum & Mason, Liberty, Harrods, Brintons, Ercol and Nike. Their prints are held in collections at the Art Institute of Chicago, Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, and the V&A in London. The duo have long had showrooms in locations known for contemporary design like Clerkenwell, Berlin and Glasgow – what made Alistair and Paul identify Edinburgh’s slightly more conservative New Town as their next location?

“An Edinburgh showroom is something we have been planning for a while,” says Paul. “We have studied the city periodically from a design perspective, observing the unique characteristics of the different areas. We designed the Edinburgh Toile in 2005 for the Edinburgh Festival. And Alistair and I have lived and worked in Glasgow for over 30 years so it’s lovely to feel like we have a new urban realm to explore and we have come to really appreciate what the capital has to offer – particularly in terms of its rich food and drink culture!”

“Edinburgh, and the New Town in particular, where our showroom is located, has very spacious homes with period detailing that can really showcase our designs at scale,” adds Alistair.

The new showroom situated on the corner of Northumberland and Dundas Streets will house the entire Timorous Beasties collection of wallpapers, fabrics and home accessories. The 2,500 sq ft space is arranged over two floors – the ground floor area will present an array of wallcoverings, fabrics and accessories. The lower level will have a cosier aesthetic with a series of immersive displays where customers can view collections in lifestyle room sets, browse sample books and seek interior design advice from the Timorous Beasties team.

“People know us internationally but they also see us as a Scottish company, so it makes sense to have a showroom on Dundas Street where our clients in both Scotland and internationally can visit us and see our designs in-situ. This is a destination space that allows us to showcase the full breadth of our collections – we want our customers to enjoy an immersive experience and gain a better understanding of over 30 years of Timorous Beasties pattern and print heritage.”

To mark the new opening, Timorous Beasties will also unveil new urban toile ceramic designs exclusive to the Edinburgh space, as well as a number of limited edition cushions that will be launched throughout the year. The designers are also creating a special installation for the upcoming Dundee Design Festival in September.

Timorous Beasties, 35 Northumberland St, Edinburgh, open Tue-Sat 9.45am-5.15pm
@timorous_beasties / @localheroesdesign